A stroke of fate? I doubt that’s what you’ll be wanting if you are an older woman.
That’s because stroke is a major danger as you get older. Approximately 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year and more than 137,000 people die from this condition. In fact, this condition is the 4th largest killer in America. Of these deaths, 60 percent are women.
“If you are a woman, you share many of the same risk factors for stroke with men, but your risk is also influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth and other sex-related factors,” said Dr. Cheryl Bushell, the author of the new scientific statement that’s published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, in a press release.
To try to provide physicians with guidelines, the American Heart Association has released its first-ever guidelines to help prevent strokes among women. These guidelines identified the following factors that will increase the risk for older women:
- A history of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, which occurs only during pregnancy as well as the postpartum period, is believed to strike up to 8 percent of all pregnancies. This condition includes high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Women who have had preeclampsia while pregnant face double the risk of stroke as well as four times higher risk of high blood pressure as they get older. These risks continue well after child-bearing years.
- The combination of migraine headaches with aura and smoking. Women who experience migraine headaches with aura should make every effort to stop smoking in order to decrease their higher risk of strokes.
- Atrial fibrillation. Women who are over the age of 75 should be assessed for atrial fibrillation risks since this condition is linked to a higher stroke risk.
- Hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy has been found to increase the risk of strokes.
- Diabetes, depression and emotional stress. Researchers also determined that these three conditions are actually risk factors for stroke in women and can increase the chance and severity of strokes in women.
Additionally, a 2012 Johns Hopkins Medicine study suggested that women who went through an early menopause may be 50 percent more likely to suffer a stroke. “If physicians know a patient has entered menopause before her 46th birthday, they can be extra vigilant in making recommendations and providing treatments to help prevent heart attacks and stroke,” says Dr. Dhananjay Vaidya, an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and leader of this study.
So can you lower your risk of strokes? The National Stroke Association states that it is possible since up to 80 percent of all strokes are preventable. This association recommends the following:
- Focus on your diet and exercise. Realize that carrying extra pounds puts strain on your cardiovascular system. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Focus on exercising at least five times weekly and eating a healthy diet that’s loaded with fruits and vegetables while limited in salt, saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.
- Be sure to treat circulation problems. Fatty deposits can be problematic because these can block critical arteries.
- Other conditions such as sickle cell disease and severe anemia also can impact circulation. If you have these conditions, be sure to get them treated.
- Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of the stroke. You need to limit your alcohol consumption, if you drink.
- Stop smoking. This habit can increase your risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent. Smoking really causes havoc by increasing the rate that arteries clog as well as causing blood pressure levels to skyrocket. In addition, blood vessel walls often are damaged when you smoke.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. (2012). Impact of stroke.
American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. (2014). New guidelines for reducing stroke risks unique to women.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2012). Early menopause associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke.
National Stroke Association. (ND). Stroke prevention.
Preeclampsia Foundation. (ND). About preeclampsia.
Published On: February 11, 2014